Nova Scotia

N.S. premier opposes national medical group's call to end per capita vaccine distribution

The national group representing doctors in Canada says 'extraordinary measures' are needed to combat disastrous COVID-19 outbreaks in provinces like Ontario and B.C.

Canadian Medical Association says 'extraordinary measures' are needed in areas with major COVID-19 outbreaks

Premier Iain Rankin said Nova Scotia is working hard to prevent a third wave from arriving in the province, and opposes any change to the federal government's current vaccine distribution formula. (Communications Nova Scotia)

The Canadian Medical Association has issued an urgent appeal for "extraordinary measures" to save lives in provinces facing unprecedented growth in COVID-19 infections, but Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin is dismissing the group's call for an end to per capita distribution of vaccines.

In a news release issued Friday, the CMA's president, Dr. Ann Collins of Fredericton, said "we are at a critical juncture where a truly national approach to combating COVID-19 will make a difference between more or fewer lives saved."

Among other measures, she called on the federal government to redistribute vaccines to where they are most needed rather than continuing to distribute vaccines to provinces based on population.

"We act as one country when crisis hits with wildfires, floods and other tragedies," said Collins. "This pandemic has reached a new level that requires a national response."

Situation can change quickly, says Rankin

Rankin said Friday his government is against changing the model and potentially putting the province's efforts to contain COVID-19 in jeopardy.

"We've done the work, we've sacrificed and followed restrictions, there are still variants of concern across the country," he said. "We need to make sure that we're looking at that.

"Things can change very quickly in this province. We're working really hard to prevent a third wave, but we need to make sure that the vaccine rollout and the way that we structured it remains on track."

At a COVID-19 briefing later in the day, Rankin suggested having Nova Scotia share vaccine would have minimal impact on larger provinces.

"If we were to redirect a proportion of our vaccines, that would be a drop in the bucket for a province the size of Ontario," said Rankin.

Opposition leaders weigh in

That sentiment was echoed by Official Opposition Leader Tim Houston.

"Look, there [are] lots of places in the country that are struggling, for sure, but I agree with the premier that Nova Scotians have done the work, have made the sacrifices," said the PC leader.

NDP Leader Gary Burrill offered a different view, however, suggesting helping to control the spread of COVID-19 elsewhere in Canada would be a benefit to Nova Scotians.

"We have to acknowledge in Nova Scotia that there is no effective path beyond the pandemic for us that does not include addressing and stalling the exponential growth of cases in other provinces," he said.

'It's a crisis,' says Doctors N.S.

Doctors Nova Scotia, the organization that speaks for physicians and those training to be doctors in the province, was blindsided by the CMA's call to action.

Kevin Chapman, director of partnership and innovation, said the group was "scrambling" to find out more from the national organization, but he said it was not unexpected in light of the explosion of new COVID-19 cases, notably in Ontario and Quebec.

"I hope that as a nation we can come together as a nation and really help support each other," said Chapman.

He said whether vaccines should be distributed differently or if Nova Scotia has critical care staff to spare are decisions best left to public health officials and those who run the hospitals. Medical staff in hard-hit areas are stretched to the max, he said.

"We have situations where through no fault of anybody's, COVID rates have skyrocketed and people are really, they're dying," said Chapman.

"It's a crisis and our heart goes out to health-care providers and citizens who are bearing the brunt of this terrible pandemic."

Ontario asks for assistance

The Ontario government formally requested Nova Scotia's assistance Friday, shortly after Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, said no requests had been made.

Strang said provinces have agreements to assist one another. He also said at the time that the province's largest hospital has no capacity to accept patients from outside of Nova Scotia.

"In my discussions within the department, our health system is full," said Strang. "The Halifax Infirmary is at full capacity."